Bacon Bits: The Latest in Government Ineptitude and Short-Sighted Thinking

It’s Hard to Teach without Teachers. With a week to go before the start of the new school year, the Richmond Public Schools still has about 90 teacher openings, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Why the shortage, which seems to be a chronic issue? Perhaps the school conditions are so terrible that no one wants to work for the city schools. Or perhaps the school administration is dysfunctional that it can’t execute basic tasks. Whatever the case, I’ve seen no reporting to suggest that any other locality in the Richmond region has a comparable problem.

Hopewell the Next Petersburg? The City of Hopewell is now 21 months behind completing its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and that has some City Council members broiling, as reported by the T-D. One city official points to a $51.8 million in year-end cash and investments as proof that the city’s financial position is OK. But an auditor said he had uncovered about 90 instances of money being transferred without documentation — the same practice that preceded Petersburg’s fiscal meltdown.

What Hurricane Harvey Portends for Hampton Roads. Flood damage in the Houston area will run into the tens of billions of dollars. Much of the cost will be covered by an under-priced, under-funded federal flood insurance program that subsidizes construction in flood-prone areas. (Much of the balance will be covered by an under-funded federal government that will have to borrow the money.) According to Politico, about one percent of insured properties have sustained repetitive losses, accounting for more than 25 percent of the nation’s flood claims. So far, Congress has resisted serious reform, but the program is fiscally unsustainable.

Thought experiment: What would happen to Hampton Roads if federal flood insurance charged actuarially sound premiums? What would that do to property values?

A related question: Who insures infrastructure? Presumably rate payers cover the cost of maintaining electric lines. How big is that subsidy? I’m guessing that state and local governments have no insurance for roads and highways. What is that potential exposure? And how about the implicit subsidies for water and sewer service? People who choose to build and live in vulnerable locations — this now effects me, because I now am a co-owner with my brother and sister of the family beach cottage — should pay the full cost of their locational decisions.

Will that ever happen? Probably not.

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4 responses to “Bacon Bits: The Latest in Government Ineptitude and Short-Sighted Thinking

  1. Perhaps an interesting question is what would computer models show for Hampton for 50 inches of rain?

    Oh wait.. you can’t trust the models cuz they’re done by lying scientists who stand to gain from bogus models.. that we cannot trust, right?

    I wonder how much of the “skeptic” mindset played into both govt and citizens listening to multi-day warnings predicated on computer models.. didn’t believe those models either because they don’t trust the climate models either?

    but everyone can learn from this if they want to – by asking yourself what would a 50 inch rain do to where you live?

    and then we can also continue to speculate if this disaster is a one-off or an emerging pattern that we’re going to see more of , more frequently in other places?

    So… as some point, I fully expect some folks to say that Houston was caused by lying scientists that we do not believe any more.. because they simply can’t tell us exactly where the storm will hit and how much rain will drop.. eh?

  2. Tens of millions in damage? Billions. As Sagan would say, billions and billions. The business channels have had plenty of chatter about the flood insurance program, its funding woes and its propensity to subsidize repeat building in doomed locations. Just call your agent on that beach house and price an all-hazards policy. As to the infrastructure, the system’s own ratepayers will cover the bulk of it over time, but eventually the cost will find its way to all of us – and that’s fine.

    A definite jolt to Hampton Roads and other areas, a serious warning. The depleted Gaston parked over Richmond for just a few hours a decade ago and the flooding was serious – I could not imagine four days straight of that level of rain, but now I can see it. And frankly the same thing happened in Nelson county in my lifetime, almost that much rain in a short time. Small area, though.

  3. I heard than only 16% of the flooded had flood insurance… in Houston.

    I think the FEMA flood insurance program is going to be dramatically re-vamped.. and it very definitely will cause impacts to how land is valued.. how mortgages are obtained… and how govt agencies make decisions about infrastructure and how their revenues work if the taxed properties are de-valued…

    One of the big issues right now is that many folks are opposed to the FEMA flood maps themselves from being made public… for fear that it will affect their property values… but the FEMA flood maps for Houston are actually available online and they clearly show the areas now flooded.. were predicted by the flood maps.. so it’s not like govt did not know which parts of Houston would be flooded… they knew.. the maps were available prior to the rains…

    the folks who were actually located in the areas shown by the FEMA maps… just those folks – not everyone – could have been informed as to their risk and given the option – after being informed of their risk – of leaving or staying. How many would have left prior to the rains if they had been informed that their homes WERE in the flood zones and were at risk?

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